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Do Combine Risers Regularly Achieve NFL Success?

Do Combine Risers Typically Achieve NFL Success?

The NFL Scouting Combine has become a staple of the NFL calendar for teams and fans alike, as an integral event to see prospects once more before the draft. Every year, there are athletes who perform outstandingly at the Combine and boost their draft stock to heights unseen before the event, but exactly how do testing numbers translate to performance in the NFL?

Here is a group who turned heads at the Combine, and how they’ve since fared in the league:

AJ Dillon 

At 247 pounds (34 pounds heavier than the RB Combine average), many questioned AJ Dillon’s speed, overall athletic ability and whether he was just a bruiser. He proved that to be false, testing at 4.53s in the 40 yard-dash, but most impressively with a 41-inch vertical jump and 131-inch broad jump. Dillon was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the 2020 NFL Draft with the 62nd Overall Pick in the 2nd Round and had a rotational role on offense in his rookie season.

Dillon played 97 snaps on offense during the regular season, while Aaron Jones was the bell cow and took 539 snaps. However, in the 2021 regular season (with one game extra) Dillon played 476 snaps and 44.3% of the Packers running plays were Dillon carries — the largest share of any RB with the team. Dillon finished the season with 1,116 AP yards and 7 Touchdowns, cementing himself as one of the best young RBs in the league after his second season.

Nick Chubb 

Chubb was viewed by many as a Late 2nd-to-3rd Rounder by many before the 2018 NFL Combine but matched Saquon Barkley’s 29 Bench Press reps while running a 4.52 40 yd dash, a 38.5” vertical jump and a 128” broad jump. Barkley was expected to be the runaway winner of the RB group in Indy, but Chubb followed closely behind with his testing numbers. Drafted with the 35th Overall Pick at the top of the 2nd Round, he soon became a feature back. Rushing for 996 yards in his rookie season, before reaching 1000 rushing yards in the 3 previous seasons he has proved himself as one of the best RBs in the league with a great combination of power and speed.

His rushing yards are arguably the most impressive stat given that he is not the sole RB in terms of carries, and like many modern offenses has split reps with other players in the backfield, while still reaching such heights. Especially in 2020 and 2021, where he rushed for 1067 and 1259 yards respectively whilst also missing 2 and 4 games in those seasons.

DJ Moore 

Moore had a productive career with the Maryland Terrapins with a big breakout junior year, catching 80 passes for 1033 yards and 8 TDs, but was still regarded as a high upside, Round 3 or 4 pick before the 2017 NFL Combine. Moore then went on to run a 4.43s 40 yard-dash with a 39.5-inch vertical jump and 132-inch broad jump; backing his film up with the athletic ability already visible.

He was drafted by the Carolina Panthers with the 24th Overall Pick, much higher than previously anticipated and has been a constant of their offense. Despite coaching and QB changes, DJ Moore has recorded 1100+ receiving yards and 1200+ total scrimmage yards in all of the previous 3 seasons, proving himself to be the mainstay of the Panthers’ offense.

Kolton Miller 

Miller’s size has always been an extreme asset, measuring in at an astonishing 6085 and 309 pounds. Many saw his size as a limitation and that high pad level was a perpetual habit, simply due to his height and inability to be flexible enough. However, Miller showed up to the 2018 Combine and really wowed with a 4.95s 40 Yard Dash, 24 Bench Press reps, whilst recording a Vertical Jump of 31.5 inches and a Broad Jump of 121 inches; a lot more athleticism than many draft experts were expecting of Miller.

He therefore raised his draft value and was selected by the Oakland (now Las Vegas) Raiders with the 15th Overall pick. Miller has developed into a solid OT, PFF graded him as the 5th best OT in the 2021 season while his stats were somewhat good — 46th in pressures allowed and 39th in Sacks allowed by OTs (min 300 snaps, per PFF). Miller is a solid NFL player and signed a 3-year, $54 million extension before the 2022 NFL Season.

Chase Winovich 

Many projected Winovich as a Day 3 project around Round 4 or 5 despite adequate production at the University of Michigan (8.5 and 5.0 sacks in his last 2 seasons respectively). However, he turned up at the 2019 NFL Combine and ran a 4.59 40-Yard Dash (4th-best among 2019 DE) and he had the fastest 3 cone drill (6.94s).

One of the largest questions surrounding his game was explosive and athleticism which was on display in Indianapolis and undoubtedly elevated his stock. The New England Patriots eventually chose him with the 77th Overall Pick in Round 3 and he has had mixed success in New England to date. Winovich recorded 5.5 sacks in his rookie 2019 season and his 2020 season, but 0 sacks in 2021, only starting 9 games out of 45 played during his time with the Patriots to date.

Haason Reddick 

Based on talent alone, Reddick was a consensus top 50 pick, but injuries meant many expected him to fall later in the 1st Round or even to the 2nd Round. Before entering the 2017 Draft in his last 2 years at Temple, Reddick recorded a combined 14.5 sacks and 35.5 TFLs on an otherwise sub-par defense. Reddick then had a great performance at the Combine, posting a record for the longest broad jump (at the time) by a D-Lineman since the NFL started sharing testing numbers of 11-foot-1 and was also in the Top 3 of the position group at the 40-Yard Dash (4.52s) and Vertical Jump (36.5 inches).

He was then taken with the 15th Overall Pick by the Arizona Cardinals where he played out his rookie contract with limited success in his first 3 years (20 starts in 48 games and 7.5 sacks) until his contract year when he started only 11 games but amassed 12.5 sacks and 6 Forced Fumbles. Reddick hit the Free Agency market and signed a 1-year, $6 million contract with the Carolina Panthers where he had another productive season, racking up 11 sacks and 2 Forced Fumbles.

Eric Stokes

A slightly different prospect here, given Stokes was a prospect in the 2021 Draft Class -—for which there was no official combine due to the global pandemic. Instead relying on their colleges’ pro day for testing numbers and to show their ability during drills to scouts. Stokes is a lengthy CB with track speed who was projected as a Day 2 pick due to concerns over him being too light and not being involved enough as a run defender, but the upside was always there.

Stokes is an extremely twitchy player who had a good career at UGA, but his 2020 season was particularly impressive, recording 4 INTs and 4 Passes Defended in 9 games. Although measurements were unofficial, Stokes recorded a 4.25s 40-Yard Dash (almost unheard-of speed) and then compounded it with a 10-foot-8 Broad Jump and 38.5-inch Vertical Jump to show off his Athletic Ability. Consequently, the Green Bay Packers selected him with the 29th Overall Pick and he had a great season - starting 14 out of 16 games with 14 passes defended and allowing a 47.9% Completion Rate, 6th lowest out of qualifying CBs (min. 100 snaps, 25 targets, per PFF).

Clearly this is a small sample size, but there is a theory that teams should “bet on traits” and that having athletic ability can lead to successful performances with additional coaching on specific technique.